We at Central Oregon Daily News have been thrilled to bring you the stories of the High Desert and beyond these past 12 months. We wanted to look back and not only re-share with you some of our favorites, but tell you why we love them so much.
“This story focused on the hundreds of people who don’t have domestic water in their homes and haul it as needed from the Alfalfa General Store. I liked it because most people take for granted that water will flow out of their tap when they want it. These folks have to plan ahead and are champions of water conservation because of the cost and effort to haul their water.” — Brooke Snavely, Central Oregon Daily News Storyteller.
Most people take for granted that when they turn on the tap, water will flow. But for more than 500 households that live off the grid in remote parts of Crook and Deschutes counties, getting a drink, washing dishes or watering the garden requires planning ahead.
Vicky Lynn is filling a 250-gallon water tank in the back of her pickup at the Alfalfa Store.
It cost her about $5 to fill her water tank. It will cost her some gas in her truck to haul the 2,000 pounds of water 11 miles home.
“This water will go home and go in my horse trough and water my apple trees, my walnut trees and a little garden that I’ve got,” Lynn said.
Along with gasoline, groceries and a food truck, the Alfalfa Store has been selling bulk drinking water for more than 20 years.
“We have an off-grid community about eight miles past us. Everybody out there is totally off grid. No power. No water. They haul the water for themselves,” said Justin Green, Alfalfa Store owner.
“There’s some wells out there that I heard are 1,200 feet deep but they are dry holes, never hit water. There’s other local community members that also haul water. Some of their wells are 700- to 800-feet deep and I’ve heard it can be $40,000 plus to put a well in.”
Do-it-yourself water haulers are a creative bunch.
Christoper Oswalt is washing his laundry in a barrel in the back of his pickup. He figures the rough roads he drives every day will agitate the laundry as well as any washing machine.
“You learn to monitor your water. You learn how much you have. How long it’s going to last. When you have to fill up. What time of the day you should fill up. Because this does get packed. There’s a lot of people who travel through here on a daily basis just to fill up their totes,” Oswalt said.
Vicky Lynn said when you have to haul your own water, you learn not to waste it.
“You learn not to turn on the faucet and let water go down the drain. You catch it in a bucket and use it to water dogs and cats or plants. When the water gets hot, you can do your dishes. You just learn to be frugal with the water.”
Green says he has friends who live off-grid in Juniper Acres. They have a 3,000 gallon cistern they fill with water hauled from the Alfalfa store that lasts them for up to three months.